Now I’m writing just to let you know I’m still alive

Hey dad, I’m writing to you
Not to tell you that I still hate you
Just to ask you how you feel
And how we fell apart
How this fell apart…

When you lay your head down
How do you sleep at night?
Do you even wonder if we’re alright?
But we’re alright

My brother turned me on to Good Charlotte back when The Young and the Hopeless first came out. It’s still in my top 25-ish favorite records of all time, because my music taste defies genre (and, by the standards of many, decent taste). I used to skip over “Emotionless” because it was such a sad-sounding song, but when everything did fall apart in 2004 I turned it on and turned it up – on constant repeat.

Tonight, I’m doing it again.

My dad called me while I was packing Friday night. I let it roll to voicemail, since we have (now less than) two weeks to get everything ready to go. What did he want? To know if I would do his taxes. Only after he told me what I could do for him did he add, a mere afterthought, that he hopes Arthur and I, and “that guy [I’m] married to, what’s his name” (a pathetic joke), are doing alright.

We’re alright…

It’s been a long hard road without you by my side
Why weren’t you there all the nights that we cried
You broke my mother’s heart, you broke your children for life
It’s not okay, but we’re alright
I remember the days you were a hero in my eyes
But those are just a long lost memory of mine
Now I’m writing just to let you know I’m still alive
I’m still alive

I wish I could go back to the time in my life when I didn’t know – or could ignore – the conditions he places on his love. I have to go back a long way…further than even my memory will take me. It seems that his fondest declarations of love came out of a bottle or a jail cell. The rest of the time, I think we were just the little people in his life who just needed more from him than he was willing to give.

When people would ask me who my dad is, I would tell them the story of how he took up a collection at work after he read a letter to the editor in the newspaper about a little girl whose birthday money was stolen from a public restroom, where she left it on the counter. But that man…that man doesn’t jive with the picture of my father I have in my head. A gunshot hole in the wall by the stairs. A pointed finger jabbing into my sternum. Hate in his eyes. Staring down a gun. And now, it’s only ever about what I can do for him.

There’s things I’ll take to my grave, but I’m okay…

I don’t know the man who wears my daddy’s face and speaks with his voice. I ache to have my daddy back, to believe that he really wants to know how I’m doing, that he really cares. More now than ever before, as Brian and I take our first fumbling steps into parenthood, I think that I could really use my daddy. But I don’t think he was ever really there.

And now I mourn at an empty grave, in a quiet spot that exists only in the corners of my mind – like the man I thought my dad was.

And sometimes I forgive
Yeah and this time, I’ll admit
That I miss you, said I miss you…

All I want is to say goodbye.

(Italicized lyrics from “Emotionless”, written by Benji & Joel Madden and performed by Good Charlotte, (c) 2002)

Samantha Brick to the world: “Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful.”

Samantha Brick’s Article on Being Really, Really Good Looking Irks, Well, Everyone.

Oy vey.

Short synopsis for those of you who don’t feel like clicking through to read Ms. Brick’s paean of self-love: she is 41 and self-identifies as very pretty, exceptionally good looking, etc. According to her, the beauty we behold subjects her to gifts from smitten would-be suitors (champagne on a flight? Yes please!) as well as to career roadblocks and social exile from jealous, less attractive females.

The only comment I will make on Samantha Brick’s physical appearance is that she is rather lovely and younger than her 41 years.

As for beauty…not so much.

It takes more than physical appeal to make one truly beautiful. As several of the comments on the original Daily Mail article point out, the arrogance that it takes to write an article about the trials of being “gorgeous” is nearly unfathomable. There is a difference between complaining to your best girlfriends over drinks about the pudgy harpy in your office who blocked your promotion – “Ugh, she’s probably just jealous of you!” is the response you’re likely to get – and broadcasting it to millions of readers (now worldwide) that your good looks are such a trial.

I’m not saying, by the way, that they aren’t. We are a visual society and women in particular have a tendency to compare/compete with other women. But good looks are not the only positive trait with a decidedly negative converse: above-average intelligence, prodigal talent in any field (including athletic prowess), even effusive friendliness can all be discounted by others or even turned against a person and wielded as a weapon. These things are also, as in Ms. Brick’s case, countered by less wholesome traits: arrogance, for one; tunnel vision or a seeming disinterest in anything not associated with the trait in question; or the perceived inability to assert oneself against those who would take advantage.

This juxtaposition of “positive” and “negative” traits works in the opposite way as well: perhaps someone with only a fair appearance is an exceptional musician, or the quiet coworker who seems aloof and disinterested is secretly brilliant. In either case and many more, such people are written off – much in the way Ms. Brick complains of being – by others who would rather swiftly judge and move on than take the time to truly know a person.

I think it is a wonderful thing that Ms. Brick is so careful with her appearance and that she seems to have a very healthy self-image when it comes to her physical shell. Her problem is that her attitude in expressing that self-image is off-putting and ugly. To achieve real beauty, one must be beautiful – not with cosmetics or procedures or even exercise – but with a loving outlook and the modesty/humility/serenity to accept one’s place in the world. The backlash she has faced since the Daily Mail ran her piece will hopefully give her the inspiration she needs to make peace with the self inside the shell, and to be a beautiful person…rather than just a good looking one.

Sign the Petition: Cancel TLC’s “Sorority Girls”

TLC, normally one of my favorite networks, has crossed a personal line of mine with their new show Sorority Girls. Five American sorority women travel to the U.K. to create the first British sorority, Sigma Gamma, and British university women will compete to earn one of five bids to the first new member class.

From the description on TLC’s Web site, the ladies will bring the “exclusivity and glamour” of their sorority lives to the venture, which immediately strikes a sour chord with me. For me, as well as for my sisters in Delta Zeta and fellow Greeks across the entire NPC and IFC (can’t forget the gents), being Greek is not about the parties or being part of an “exclusive” club, having the flashiest clothes or being “glamorous”. It’s about aspiring to a higher standard of academic excellence, gaining awareness of the world through participation in philanthropy activities that benefit a wide range of organizations and causes, and living the tenets of sister- and brotherhood as they are presented to us.

I’ve signed the petition below urging TLC to cancel Sorority Girls or to change the way that they portray Greek women and men. Even if you aren’t a sorority or fraternity member, you know those who are (like me). If you love and support us and the community that we represent, sign the petition and stand with us.

Read this if you’re old…

…or if somebody you know is old, and could stand to hear it from someone to whom they’ll actually listen.

Old people, you are becoming children all over again. This is merely a reflection, based on my observations of both children and old people. Several similar behaviors are evident, including an unwillingness to listen to reason and an extremely narrow and self-centered worldview. (Let’s not discuss the whole “diaper” component…) Children are wired to behave this way as a means of gradually understanding the world around them, in order to assimilate new information without suffering from sensory overload. They just don’t get that they are a piece of the whole, rather than its core.

Many elderly, however, behave this way (I think) out of a sense of fear — fear of becoming obsolete or of being trapped in a world that is, for many, no longer familiar. Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia no doubt play a large part in this type of response to the world, but by and large it’s a function of the narrowing of the known world. At a certain age the world stops expanding and, as one confronts the inevitability of death, contracts on itself until you, the elderly, are comfortably lodged in a bubble of beliefs and notions that remains impervious to outside influence — even when those notions are potentially more harmful to you than letting the world in could ever be.

The loss of independence is also a primary trigger of the fear response. Even if you have no idea where you are or have forgotten where you are supposed to be going, the thought of losing the fantasy of control is an unacceptable, painful suggestion that the world — your world — no longer needs your cooperation to function.

Lest all this pseudo-psychobabble seem foreign or ridiculous, let me move to the point of this little rant: Last month, I went to my cousin’s graduation party. Also invited was my grandmother from the other side of the family, she of the menorah debacle, because she attends my cousin’s church (and, of course, because she’s my family). I arrived to see my grandmother attempting to parallel park, in a spot that had more than enough room for her to get in and out. She couldn’t do it, though, so my mom jumped out of my car to go help her. There were other examples of her aging not so well throughout the party, but the kicker came when it was time for her to leave…

Small note: when my mom parked Grandma’s car, she put it directly in front of the house and left more than enough room on either end of the car for her to easily just cut the wheel and maneuver it out without constant adjustment. Apparently, Grandma slammed on the gas to reverse, then slammed on the brakes to avoid the car behind her by less than an inch. (Reminds me of driving school, really…) She then somehow managed to get out of the spot and back to her house, which I only know because we went over there to visit her. After she left, my mom’s cousin came over to us and commiserated: “She drives like that all the time at church…please tell [my father] to take her keys.”

So we told him. And he sighed and said that he knew it was coming. And he actually had the conversation with her, which was a little surprising to me…but then, as he told us, he decided not to demand that she give them up because “they’re a symbol of her independence.”

And there, dear old people, is where you really start to piss me off.

I get that you don’t want to feel like you’re sucking the lives out of the people around you with your needs and demands. I understand that it’s a point of pride for you to be able to drive around without a chauffeur, just as it is for the sixteen-year-old who is holding their very first license after years of waiting. However, if you are such a danger to the people around you that it’s safer for me to walk around barefoot in dark clothing in the worst parts of Cleveland at 3 am on a Saturday than it is for you to get behind the wheel of a car, then it’s time to do the wise adult thing and agree to hand over the keys. When your argument for continuing to drive is that your mother didn’t give it up until a judge ordered her to, you’ve already proven my point.

So please, please, take a step outside your bubble and think of the others whose lives you are putting at risk out of sheer stubbornness. It could be someone’s grandchild that you hit, or you could be the one to not make it — and while we all accept that we will lose our grandparents, that’s not the way we’d choose for you to go. Those in the middle generation, all of our parents who are now caring for their parents, take heed of this and be willing to take that stand. You’ll be doing the world a favor.